Alumni Create a Mad, Mad,
With 68,000-plus alumni living and working around the globe, the Madison spirit is showing up all over the place. Here are four groups of alumni who hold their own regular reunions and exemplify the spirit President Rose talked about in his inaugural speech. Are you holding your own Madison reunions or get-togethers? If so, let Montpelier know. Email your story to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
THE CALIFORNIA CONNECTION
When 19 JMU friends from the northern California area get together they're usually doing more than reminiscing. They're usually raising money for charity. Luciclare "Ding" Miller Young ('52) says, "In October 1968, a group of five JMU alums found each other, and our group has been meeting and growing ever since. There's about 19 of us now who get together twice a year for luncheons and fund raisers."
The group participates in the Marin County Designer Showcase, the fourth oldest showcase event in the country. "Local designers bid on remodeling one room of a showcase home and the program coordinators and sponsors offer tours and special events," explains Young. "All the money goes to charity and nonprofit organizations. It's a wonderful event, but to be able to share it with classmates and other JMU alumni makes it even more special."
Along with the Madison spirit, a spirit of community service seems to permeate California's JMU alumni. Caroline Smith ('64) chaired the Marin Designer Showcase this year. Virginia Joyner Kennedy ('76) and Young serve together in an active chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, which also raises money for charity.
Helping Young establish the informal northern California alumni chapter in 1968 were Virginia Saunders Duncan ('52), Sue Peter Marrin ('57) and the late Jane Graham Elliott ('45). "We met in San Francisco and have been doing so every spring and fall since," says Young. "We've got a scrapbook of our 30-year experiences, and we're currently trying to involve some of the area's younger alumni. … Everyone in our group enjoys charity work, and we've sponsored museum tours, luncheons and special mini-reunions. Last year, the JMU Alumni Office brought us a Madison on the Move university update that we thoroughly enjoyed. We like being involved in good things and it's great to share that spirit with other alumni."
FABULOUS 14 FROM '48
Fourteen members of the Class of 1948 anticipated their 50th reunion so much that they traveled to Harrisonburg two days early to hold a mini-reunion at the Massanutten Village in May 1998. "After two days of catching up and having fun with each other, we gave ourselves more opportunities to mix with the rest of our classmates at the bigger reunion," says Julie Smith Martin, of Lexington, Va., who suggested the mini-reunion to her friends. "We had so much fun at our mini-50th that we decided to do it again this year."
In May 1999, the 14 classmates gathered again at the Massanutten Village to catch up, chat and visit. "Although our little group is scattered over six states, we are very close," says Martin. "We usually meet at least once in between the span of our regular five-year reunions. Since we just passed our 50th and have lost a few classmates, we've decided to meet more often. We've been doing this for years, and we wouldn't trade the experiences and memories for the world."
THE GIFFORD QUARTET
Since their 20th reunion in 1995, Elizabeth Mochen Prescott, Deb Braxdale Ward, Wendy Story and Linda Driver Hughlett (1975 classmates), have held their own annual mini-reunions.
The quartet met in Gifford Hall their freshman year. "With four people to a room, you get to know each other really well," says Prescott, who lives in Toronto, Canada. "When we came to Madison in the fall of 1971, Ronald Carrier was about to become the fourth president. There was a great soccer program but no football; and, there was a high ratio of women to men. … We had a great camaraderie. My favorite memories are of afternoons on the Quad."
Story, who lives in Wilbraham, Mass., transferred and received her degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, but her roommates don't hold that against her. "I've always been a JMU girl at heart," she says. "I cherish the memories of my freshmen year in Gifford Hall. It was pretty tight quarters, so we got very close. … We are all very different women, but Madison gives us a common bond, sort of like a second family. We didn't start meeting yearly until our 20th reunion, but we've always been in close contact."
The Gifford quartet's reunion site varies from year to year. "We take turns visiting each other's hometowns," says Prescott. With Ward and Hughlett living in Northern Virginia, and the other two in Massachusetts and Canada, that may sound unmanageable. Not so for these close friends.
"We really don't plan anything special like luncheons or tours, we just enjoy each other's company," says Prescott. "Connecting with each other and hearing about each other's families is great fun. … We're actually trying to find another roomie of ours."
Jane Wendler ('75) are you out there?
MAMA DING'S GIRLS
"You'd think that us girls living in Tri-Sigma House and Alpha Sigma Alpha House would have been great rivals instead of great friends," says Caroline Wake ('52). "But we were all Mama Ding's girls… The time we spent at Madison bonded us. And, our housemother, Mama Ding [Agnes Stribling Dingledine], enforced the same kind of rules and morals that our parents taught us. We all became very close."
Every year, 10 sorority friends from Tri-Sigma and ASA meet at the Virginia Beach summer home of Charlotte Korn Roberts ('52) of Richmond. "We revert right back to 1952, except for the gray hair," says Wake. "We sit up deep into the night chatting up a storm. Most of us are from the Richmond and Tidewater areas, but we have a few friends that make the trip from Charleston and Columbia, S.C. We don't spend our time planning special luncheons or trips. We've got too much talking to do. We just have a weekend house party and enjoy each other's company."
Wake keeps her classmates up to date on JMU, as she is serving a second three-year term on the Alumni Association board of directors. "Madison is one of the friendliest places I've ever seen," says Wake. "That spirit runs through all alumni classes. I'm sure there are many groups of JMU friends that meet like we do. And, they know too, that these mini-reunions make the big five-year reunions seem more special."